Calls made for meat industry taskforce as Covid-19 clusters continue

Calls have been made for a taskforce for the meat processing industry following the emergence of new Covid-19 clusters at a number of plants.

Making the calls, Holly Cairns, Social Democrats spokesperson on agriculture, said:

“While the health and well-being of the workers must be our main priority, ongoing outbreaks at meat processing plants have wider implications for the towns and villages they are located in.

There are very real fears that localised lockdown measures could be imposed in a number of counties in the midlands, undoing the months of progress made in bringing infection rates down.

“This has been an ongoing issue for months but we are seeing clusters in the same settings time and time again. What lessons have been learnt?

“I have previously called for unannounced inspections at plants – but have there been any?

“I will continue to seek a taskforce on workers’ conditions in the meat processing sector as it is now clear that this is needed more than ever.”

Covid-19 spike in meat processing

The spike of Covid-19 clusters in meat and food processing facilities in recent days “comes as no surprise” to trade union SIPTU, which says that 9% of the meat processing industry’s workforce has now been diagnosed with the coronavirus.

Speaking to AgriLand this morning, Friday, August 7, SIPTU manufacturing division organiser Greg Ennis said:

“This comes as no surprise; we had predicted that this would happen. Everything that should have been done is not being done.

We need blanket testing of all workers in meat and food processing facilities; on a reoccurring basis. Where there are symptoms of the virus or confirmed cases, we need the immediate shutdown of those employments – without loss of earnings for the workers.

This, he said, must be the case until the employment is deep-cleaned, sanitised and inspected before workers can return to work.

“The health and safety of our members – workers, their families and the wider community – is of paramount importance.”